My husband and I didn’t know anything about this growing process when we got married. I’m sure after returning from our honeymoon my husband thought, “ What happened to my lovely bride?”
We were engaged after dating only six months and were married six months later. We originally planned on getting married the following year. But after a few stressful months of trying to plan a big wedding, we decided to cancel it and have a small wedding that year. I often say God led us to get married sooner because He knew my husband would’ve left me after the first year because I was an emotional mess.
The first few years of our marriage were filled with strife. I wasn’t able to bear any fruit to help our marriage because I didn’t have a relationship with Christ.
Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).
We won’t be able to bear the fruit of love in our marriages without Jesus first developing His love in us. We may be able to show acts of love but they will not be sincere if they are not coming from a pure heart.
I never understood why I couldn’t sincerely love my husband. I wanted to love him. I wanted to be a good wife. I wanted to have a good marriage. I wanted to show my husband love. But I didn't know I was trying to give him something I didn’t have.
We can’t love our spouses without first allowing Jesus to purify our hearts and then fill it with His love.
1 Peter 1:22 says, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”
The only way to have sincere love for our spouses is to turn our hearts in obedience to God. Each step of obedience brings us closer to God who purifies our hearts. Each step of disobedience draws us further from God and into sin, which hardens our hearts.
Jesus said, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31, ESV).
We can’t skip over the first command, loving God. It is a bridge to the second command, loving others. Many couples miss this first command. They try to love their spouses but don’t love God with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength. Therefore they are not being filled with God’s love. So they’re trying to give out of an empty vessel.
We have to surrender our heart to the Lord in order for Him to fill us with His love and keep us filled. The more I allow God to fill me, the more I’m able to love my husband unconditionally.
To love unconditionally means to love without expecting anything in return. You may think, “How can I not expect anything from my spouse? I have needs too.”
The answer is simple: We need to put all our expectations, needs, and desires solely in God, and look to Him to fulfill ALL our needs. That way, if our spouses don’t meet our needs, we can still find fulfillment in knowing God loves us and meets our needs (Philippians 4:19).
When my husband doesn’t meet my needs, I pray and trust God to work in my husband’s heart to give him a desire to meet my needs. But if my husband doesn’t meet my needs right away, I can still feel satisfied knowing God cares about my needs. I can then focus on meeting my husband's needs freely without demanding anything in return.
This doesn’t mean it’s always easy for me to meet my husband’s needs. Some days it’s hard to love my husband unconditionally, especially when I’m feeling neglected by him.
When I have a need my husband isn’t meeting, I try to go out of my way and do something nice for him. This helps take my mind off me and lifts me out of self-pity and focus on loving him unconditionally.
"greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life (his own needs) for his friends (for others)."
-- John 15:13 (emphasis mine)
Jesus tells us to lay down our needs for others because He knows this is where we find fulfillment. When we lay our needs down, God picks them up. When I lay down my needs and trust God while focusing on my husband’s needs, I feel fulfilled. But if lay down my needs without looking to God to fulfill them, I feel used. So it’s important that we continually look to God to meet our needs while we’re trying to meet our spouses’ needs.
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.
—John 15:12 NLT